Women in Azerbaijan

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Women in Azerbaijan
Statue of Women Suffrage, located in Baku.
Gender Inequality Index
Value 0.323 (2012)
Rank 54th
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 54 (2010)
Women in parliament 16.0% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 90.0% (2010)
Women in labour force 61.6% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value 0.6582 (2013)
Rank 99th out of 144

Women in Azerbaijan nominally enjoy the same legal rights as men; however, societal discrimination remains a problem.[2] Traditional social norms and lagging economic development in the country’s rural regions continued to restrict the role of women in the economy, and there were reports that women had difficulty exercising their legal rights due to gender discrimination.[2]

Voting Rights[edit]

Universal suffrage was introduced in Azerbaijan in 1918 by the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, thus making Azerbaijan the first Muslim-majority country ever to enfranchise women.[3]

Political Representation[edit]

As of 2007, several women held senior government positions, including deputy speaker of parliament, several deputy ministers, and deputy chair of the Central Election Commission.[2] There are no legal restrictions on the participation of women in politics. As of 2015, there were 21 women in the 125-seat parliament. The percentage of female members of parliament increased from 11 to 17 percent between 2005 and 2015.[4]

As of May 2009, women held the positions of Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Court, Deputy Chairman of the Nakhchivan AR Cabinet of Ministers, four Deputy Ministers, an Ambassador, and Ombudsmen of Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan AR. Women constituted 4 of the 16 members of the Central Election Commission and chaired of 3 of the 125 district election commissions. There were no female ministers or heads of executive governments of cities or rayons, except for Hijran Huseynova who chairs the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs and Maleyka Abbaszadeh who is the chair of the State Students Admission Commission.[5][6] The State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs of Azerbaijan Republic is the primary government agency overlooking the activities in protection of rights of women in the country. In 2015, Natavan Gadimova was appointed Minister of Culture of the Nakhchivan AR.[7] As of 2016, 11% of the country's professional judges were women, which is the lowest proportion in Europe.[8]

During the active phase of the Nagorno-Karabakh War 2,000 of Azerbaijan's 74,000 military personnel were women, and 600 of them directly took part in the military operations.[9] Military service for women is voluntary; currently there are around 1,000 women serving in the Azerbaijani army.[10]

Participation in the job market[edit]

Though the majority of Azerbaijani women have jobs outside the home, women are underrepresented in high-level jobs, including top business positions.[2] Women in Azerbaijan have few opportunities in the field of business. They face difficulties obtaining bank loans because the property they could potentially pledge is usually registered in the name of their male relatives. Banks do not often trust women with loans and in cases when they do, a woman's business is not perceived as serious and cannot compete on the market. In some cases, businesswomen become a target of rumours and even sexual harassment from male employees of state institutions in charge of accepting reports and documentations.[6]

Domestic violence[edit]

In 2000, Azerbaijan signed up to the Optional Protocol of CEDAW, recognizing the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, after which it can receive and consider complaints from individuals or groups within its jurisdiction.[11]

Rape is illegal in Azerbaijan and carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence.[2] A new domestic violence law come into force in 2010, which criminalized spousal abuse, including marital rape.[12][13] Nevertheless, others highlight that in reality many in Azerbaijan do not consider this as a crime and the prevailing culture does not encourage complaints about marital rape.[14]

During 2011 female members of parliament and the head of the State Committee on Women and Children increased their activities against domestic violence. Media coverage of domestic violence issues also began to raise awareness of the problem. A 2010 law establishes a framework for investigation of domestic violence complaints, defines a process to issue restraining orders, and calls for the establishment of a shelter and rehabilitation center for victims.[2]

However societal attitudes lag behind: 40% of Azerbaijanis surveyed in 2012 still believed that agree that women should tolerate domestic violence in order to keep their family together, and 22% agreed that there are times when a woman deserves to be beaten.[15] The 2006 renaming of the state Committee on Women's Issues as he State Committee on Family, Women and Children’s Affairs (SCFWCA) has also been interpreted by some as a protectionist approach that views women as vulnerable “reproductive units" rather than independent individuals.[11]

Prostitution in Azerbaijan[edit]

Prostitution is an administrative offense rather than a crime and is punishable by a fine of up to $102 (88 AZN).[2] Pimps and brothel owners may be sentenced to prison for up to six years.[2] The law does not directly prohibit sexual harassment.[2]

Timeline of women's emancipation[edit]

Year Event Location
1889 Nigar Shikhlinskaya became the first Azeri female to obtain a higher education.[16] Tiflis
1901 Empress Alexandra School, the first Azeri secular girls' school and the first of such kind in the Russian Empire, opened.[17] Baku
1908 Saint Petersburg Women's Medical College graduate Sona Valikhan became the first certified Azeri female physician.[18] Saint Petersburg
1908 Philanthropist Hamida Javanshir founded the first Azeri coeducational school.[19] Kahrizli
1910 Actress Govhar Gaziyeva became the first Azeri woman to appear on stage.[20] Tiflis
1911 Khadija Alibeyova published Ishig, the first Azeri-language women's magazine.[21] Tiflis
1912 The first Azeri female opera singer Shovkat Mammadova made her first stage performance.[22] Baku
1919 Azerbaijani women were granted the right to vote.[23]
1929 Izzat Orujova became the first Azerbaijani female actress to act in a feature film.[24]
1930 Adila Shahtakhtinskaya became the first Azeri woman to earn a doctoral degree.[25]
1931 Leyla Mammadbeyova performed her first flight and became the first Azerbaijani female aviator.[26] Baku
1932 The first Azerbaijani ballerina Gamar Almaszadeh debuted in Shakh-Senem.[27] Baku
1938 People's Commissar of Justice Ayna Sultanova became the first Azerbaijani female cabinet minister.[28]
1949 Valida Tutayug became the first Azeri female member of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (founded in 1945).[29]
1964 Sakina Aliyeva was elected Chair of the Supreme Soviet of Nakhchivan, becoming the first Azerbaijani female head of parliament.[30] Nakhchivan
2007 Manzar Ismayilova became the first Azeri female pastor.[31]
2009 Natavan Mirvatova was promoted to major general, the third highest military rank in Azerbaijan and the highest a female has ever been elevated to.[9]


  1. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013" (PDF). World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Azerbaijan (2011). United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2011). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ Tadeusz Swietochowski. Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920: The Shaping of a National Identity in a Muslim Community. Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 0521522455, 9780521522458, p.144
  4. ^ 2015 Parliamentary Election Results.
  5. ^ Women in Azerbaijan Reluctantly Considered for Executive Positions by K.Zarbaliyeva. 16 May 2009.
  6. ^ a b Women in Azerbaijan Ranked 90th Worldwide by R.Orujov. 7 April 2012.
  7. ^ New Female Minister in Nakhchivan. Haqqin.az. 2 September 2015.
  8. ^ Proportion of female judges in UK among lowest in Europe. The Guardian. 6 October 2016.
  9. ^ a b First Azerbaijani Woman to Become Major General. Lent.az. 29 March 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  10. ^ Around 1,000 Women in Azerbaijani Army. Trend.az. 12 August 2014.
  11. ^ a b "Policy Attitudes towards Women in Azerbaijan: Is Equality Part of the Agenda? | Gunda-Werner-Institute". www.gwi-boell.de. Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  12. ^ http://sgdatabase.unwomen.org/uploads/Law%20on%20Prevention%20of%20Domsetic%20Violence%202010.pdf
  13. ^ http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/equality/03themes/violence-against-women/cdeg_2010_12en.pdf
  14. ^ "Gender based violence in Azerbaijan". www.peace.ax. Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  15. ^ Crrc (2015-03-02). "Deserving to be beaten and tolerating violence: Attitudes towards violence against women in Azerbaijan". Social Science in the Caucasus. Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  16. ^ Azerbaijan Soviet Encyclopedia (1987), vol. 10, p. 551.
  17. ^ The Past Days by Manaf Suleymanov. 1990
  18. ^ Female Activity at the Turn of the Century. Gender-az.org.
  19. ^ (Azerbaijani) Megastar and Her Light. An interview with Hamida Javanshir's granddaughter Dr. Mina Davatdarova. Gender-az.org
  20. ^ Göyərçin xanım. Adam.az.
  21. ^ Azerbaijani Woman in Historical Retrospective. Gender-az.org.
  22. ^ Shovkat Mammadova, Audacious Challenge by Fuad Akhundov. Azerbaijan International. Winter 1997 (retrieved 26 August 2006)
  23. ^ 7th annual Azerbaijan Adoptive Families Reunion. Azerbaijani Women of America.
  24. ^ Izzat Orujova-100. Bakinsky Rabochy. October 2009.
  25. ^ Adila Shahtakhtinskaya. Adam.az.
  26. ^ (Russian) The Proprietress of the Sky by I.Gadirova. Nash Vek. 7 May 2004. Retrieved 6 June 2007
  27. ^ Center Stage: My Life as Azerbaijan's First Ballerina by Gamar Almaszadeh. Azerbaijan International. #10.3. Autumn 2002
  28. ^ Hidden Facts about Ayna Sultanova. Deyerler. 8 February 2010.
  29. ^ Famous Alumni - Valida Tutayug. Azerbaijani State Agricultural University.
  30. ^ Nakhchivan.
  31. ^ First Azerbaijani Female Cleric. Day.az. 17 November 2007. Retrieved 4 October 2011.

Further reading[edit]

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